Interview – Actuary

Actuary are a group of noise enthusiasts from LA who specialise in “digital and analog sound enforcement”. M3 recently caught up with Dustin Johnston from the band to hear his take on the state of the industry!


M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Dustin – Well, I’m a father and a family man, a student working on a Masters Degree in English, I work in a college writing lab teaching kids how to write papers, and a full time noiser.

What inspired you to start Actuary? What is your own musical background?
Growing up I played in all sorts of bands playing everything from death metal and grindcore, to punk and funk. I came to a spritual turning point in my life, and started just experimenting with sound. Anthony from Actuary, never played an instrument in his life when I met him, but he was turning me on to all this really good noise, so in turn I showed him how to do it himself and we started making noise together. Jeff has an extensive electronic music background, came into the picture and starting jamming with us because he dug it. After that things really came together. I told folks and friends I was making noise and wanted to play and got a warm welcome… We needed a name, the rest is history ;-)

What was the reasoning behind making some of your recent releases available for free or ‘pay-as-you-please’ download?
A good friend and supporter, Jay Randall was starting some on line labels (Pro-Noise.com and Grindcore Karaoke) and wanted to get us on it, so we thought “why not?”

What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this distribution method?
Well, it helped get some of our more grind-centred noise out there to folks that dug that sort of thing, which was cool. It also exposed more grind-centered folks to what we do best…..make noise. Some of our stuff like our split with Bastard Noise was pretty much sold out, so that helped get it out to those that missed out on it. I don’t think there’s any real disadvantages in the grand scheme of things. We’re not trying to “make it” or anything like that. We’re doing what we love to do: make noise. We are humbled and thouroughly grateful that other folks “get” what we are doing and want to hear it.

On average, how many people would you say still pay for a release when given the option to download for free?
You know, I’m not sure. We’ve only done a physical release alongside a digital release once. We recently released a 7″ EP with Marion Barry… It also was released on Grindcore Karaoke on the same day for free. I’ve sold a bunch of the records to some distros already, and have had a few online orders… Lots of folks want to trade too, which I’ll entertain sometimes. Ultimately there are people that like vinyl, and that’s what they prefer.

Would you say this method is a realistic possibility for the future of music distribution?
I’d say it is… it’s happening now.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I pretty much listen to all the mediums, but my preffered medium is vinyl… there’s an aesthetic to it that I dig, colored vinyl and whatnot, and a chance to show off some great art, not to mention the sound quality is pretty damn good.

Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Not really, those that value that sort of thing will continue to do so… A lot of folks who grew up in the computer age just aren’t hip to things like vinyl and such, and are just taking what’s fed to them and putting it in their iPods on random… I think they are missing out…

What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I don’t have one really… That’s the government, thats what they do… We’ll keep on making sound either way, and those that pirate will continue to find ways around it.

Finally, what does the future have in store for Actuary?
Who knows? We’ll keep playing, and recording… It’s a passion of ours. We have lots of stuff on the chopping block this year, with some really super acts and we’re entirely honored to work with them. We’ll be putting out tapes, CD’s, vinyl, and free downloads… It’s awesome. I suppose it’ll slow down at some point, but I don’t see that happening any time soon ;-)

For more information on Actuary, check out their website or follow them on Facebook.

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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